Madrid is the capital and the largest city of the Kingdom of Spain with around 3.3 million inhabitants. This city is a place offering to its visitors a variety of attractions and many possible ways to spend time there. History and art lovers can visit numerous museums and after busy day relax in one of many lively bars, restaurants and trendy clubs. On the next day tourists may hang around in beautiful parks, busy streets or large squares.
This is a great European metropolis which everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. LOT Polish Airlines enables it by offering cheap air tickets to Madrid. The direct connection from Warsaw is quick and very comfortable. The city is a combination of a long history which dates back to Roman times and the business center of the Iberian Peninsula with high office buildings, elegant shops and hotels.
The center of Spain
Madrid is literally the heart of Spain, located in the central part of the country over the Manzanares river.
On the Puerta del Sol square there is marked geographical center of Spain. The city is also the highest situated European capital. It lies at an altitude of 635 meters above sea level. The capital of Spain is divided into two parts: Old Madrid (Habsburg Madrid) and Bourbon Madrid. As a large, capital city it is the economic, administrative and cultural center of the country, as well as business and trade center.
What to see in Madrid
One of the most important monuments in the capital of Spain is Royal Palace (Palacio Real). A lot of tourists start Madrid sightseeing from this point of the city. The building construction started in 1755 and it was a royal family house since then. It is the second largest palace in Western Europe. Its interior consists of almost 3.5 thousand rooms, however currently the royal family chose to live in a much smaller residence- Palacio de la Zarzuela, located outside Madrid. Right behind the palace there are beautiful Sabatini Gardens.
From the Royal Palace it is really worth to take a walk up to Puerta del Sol. Along the way you will pass by 20th century Almudena Cathedral, later you can see the Royal Pharmacy and enter Plaza Mayor. The square is surrounded by restored buildings and it used to be a heart of the city. Here all the important events, like coronations, executions, bullfighting and theatre performances, were held. The walk can end on another square, which is currently the heart of the city and in fact all Spain. Puerta del Sol is the point from which all the distances in the country were measured. You can see marked geographical center in front of the clock tower. Now it is also a favourite dating place for Madrid residents.
Visiting at least one museum in Madrid is a must for every art lover. Around the Paseo del Prado there are numerous cultural attractions, especially museums. Probably the most famous in whole Spain is Museo del prado. It consists of the greatest artists collection, such as Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, Rubens, Titian, Raphael, Bosch, Memling, Dürer and Rubens. For the contemporary art passionist there is a very interesting museum- Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Its most famous artwork is enormous Picasso's Guernica. The third major Madrid museums is the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. It is a private wonderful collection from the Italian Gothic to the pop art.
LOT Polish Airlines offers a flight to Madrid-Barajas which is an international airport located 13 km northeast of the center of the Spanish capital (Puerta del Sol). In 2005 it handled almost 42 million passengers which makes it the biggest Spanish airports. It ranks second in Europe in terms of number of passengers and ninth in cargo traffic. At the same time it is also the biggest employer in Spain.
Madrid airport was opened in 1928 and since then it has grew and developed that now it is one of the biggest European airports. Barajas Airport name comes from the name of the district where the airport is located. It is one of the most important connections between Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. It is located 13 kilometres from Puerta del Sol dn 9 from the financial city center. Madrid Barajas Airport consists of 4 terminals: T1, T2, T3 and T4 with a satellite terminal T4S. There are four runways that allow to carry out up to 120 flight operations per hour (there is take off and landing every 30 seconds). Terminals 1,2 and 3 are situated very close to each other.
How to reach the airport
Madrid Airport can be reached by car from the main road leading to the city's ring which is further connected to the highway. The journey from the city center takes around 30 minutes. It is possible to rent a car in many car rentals located in the city and at the airport or take a taxi (you can find them in every terminal).
If you prefer a public transport there are buses and metro. Madrid Metro runs from 6:00 am to 1:45 pm.
You can get to the center by line number 8, but in order to get to the most important tourist locations of the Spanish capital it suggested to change to the line 4 at the Mar de Cristal station. The metro station is at Terminal 2, but it is easily accessed from the rest of the terminals which are connected by free buses. The metro is well marked, so it is hardly possible to get lost. Also very well organized is bus service. From each terminal it is possible to reach major destinations in Madrid, as well as other part of Spain. They run from 6 am to 2 in the morning.
The airport has a lot of useful services. It is possible to find 22 information points, so you should not be lost there. There are also two banks and several ATMs, as well as few currency exchange offices. Madrid airport is also well equipped with dining possibilities. There are many restaurants, cafes and bars. The Internet service is available in restaurants and VIP lodges. You can also spend some time and money in many shops, also in a duty-free area. Luggage lockers are located in terminals 1, 2 and 4. Storage of luggage for 24 hours costs 3.7 Euros. Lockers are designed to hold even as big luggage like a bicycle or surfboard / snowboard. There are also chapels for many religions, nursery for children up to 12 years, playground and a police station.
The airport is very comfortable for travellers. The newest Terminal 4 designed by Richard Rogers is also very admirable from architectural point of view.
Finding flight tickets to Madrid should not be difficult, since there are many good offers to choose from. One of them is direct and convenient flight from Warsaw offered by LOT. However, buying a ticket is only half of the struggle during planning a trip. Once you got the ticket, you should start to look for an accommodation. Madrid has a huge amount of places to stay, from 5 star, high-end hotels to cheap hostels, guesthouses and apartments for rent. After deciding how much you would like to spend on the accommodation, you can think about the location and standard of the room.
Localization is important
The most popular tourists location are around Cortes, Plaza Santa Ana, Plaza Mayor and of course Puerta del Sol. These places offer lively atmosphere, a lot of restaurants and fun nightlife. At the same time it is very safe there and within walking distance from places like the Palace, Reina Sofia, Prado and Thyssen. The prices here are higher than in other parts of the city. By going further from the city center the prices getting lower, but at the same time you should consider that the transportation in Madrid is quite expensive, so sometimes it is better to find something closer to the center.
Madrid Hotels and apartments
If you prefer comfortable travelling, there will be plenty of Madrid hotels to choose from. Most of them are located in the best and most central part of the city, within a walking distance from major attractions. It is possible to stay here in high-end luxury hotels, as well as 3, 4 or 5 star ones, with lower prices and standard. It is worth to remember that capital of Spain is extremely popular tourist destination. If you plan your trip you should book an accommodation in advance, especially if you would like to go there on weekend.
If you are looking for a little bit cheaper form of accommodation the best will be private apartment. Note that cheaper does not mean that the standards is lower. Usually apartments are fully equipped, so it is possible to use kitchen and prepare your own meals. Often it is possible to stay in the greatest Madrid location. It is also the best option for bigger groups and families who want to stay in Madrid for a longer period.
Hostels and Guesthouses
Usually hostels are associated with low quality of services and budget travellers or backpackers.
But while searching carefully, you can find out that in Madrid it is easy to find nice place with familiar atmosphere. Hostels in Spain are often run by families who are trying to provide the best standard. It is also possible to meet many interesting people staying in those kind of places.
Sometimes hotels in Spain are very similar to hotels, the only difference is that they are much smaller. So it is worth to take them under consideration during organizing the trip. Another type of accommodation are guesthouses, which is the cheapest option in Madrid. Usually you can find them in old houses in the old town. They are often located in areas that are pretty hard to find. If you are looking for real savings on accommodation in Madrid guesthouse is the right option for you.
This kind of accommodation are often chosen by people traveling with backpacks, students and people looking for maximum savings on accommodation. With a little bit of luck you can find modest, clean room, with private bathroom and good location.
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